This year Canada turns 150 (you don’t look a day over 149 Canada!). Where better to celebrate than in the country’s capital. If you’re thinking wait I thought Toronto was the capital of Canada – you’re wrong and I’m guessing you’re from the US (based on several amusing segments of Talking to Americans – please don’t bomb Saskatchewan). The capital of the world’s second biggest country is actually Ottawa. This year is a great time to explore and travel Ottawa Canada.
Party Like a Canadian – Events and Festivals
Heading to a local festival is one of my favourite ways to experience a new culture! Ottawa has a rich variety of festivals through the year. This year there will be even more to celebrate with Canada turning 150! There’s a festival for everyone. For a full list of events and festivals planned for Ottawa 2017 visit Ottawa 2017 Events.
Canadian Tulip Festival
May 12-22, 2017
The Canadian Tulip Festival is the largest of its kind in the world. It attracts around 600,000 visitors every year. In addition to millions of tulips in over 100 varieties, the festival features fireworks and military displays.
The festival celebrates the international friendship between the Netherlands and Canada. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family escaped to the safety of Canada. During their time in Ottawa, Princess Margriet was born. The Government of Canada temporarily declared the hospital where she was born as international territory. This meant that Margriet could hold Dutch citizenship and still be eligible for the Dutch throne.
The tulips are also a gift to thank Canadians for the significant role they played in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation. Each year the people of the Netherlands and the Dutch royal family send bulbs to Canada in recognition of the close ties between the two countries.
Canada’s Birthday Bash
Ottawa, Canada’s Capital, is the place to be on July 1st for the country’s biggest annual birthday celebration. It’s a giant patriotic party on the lawns of Parliament Hill and on the closed streets of downtown. The evening show on Parliament Hill features an impressive lineup of Canadian performers. There are events going on all day, in the evening prepare for a giant fireworks show you don’t want to miss!
Celebrate the City’s Diversity
Lebanese Festival: July 20 – 24, St. Elias Cathedral
Ukrainian Festival: July 21 – 24, 952 Green Valley Crescent
Festival of India: August 5 – 7, Marion Dewar Plaza
SouthAsianFest: August 11 – 13, Ottawa City Hall
Greek Festival: August 11 – 21, 1315 Prince of Wales Drive
Turkish Festival: September 5 – 11, 335 Michael Cowpland Drive
Discover Canada’s History, Culture, and Art
Cultural attractions are abundant in Ottawa. From Canadian history to world-class art, to the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. No matter what your interests are, Ottawa’s many national museums have something to offer everyone.
Canadian War Museum
Ranked as the #1 thing to do in Ottawa, The Canadian War Museum is one of my favourite things to do in Ottawa. Here you will find Canada military history from the earliest times to present day.
Over half a million people visit the museum every year. The museum features a large collection of military vehicles, a reconstruction of a WWI trench and an entire wall of nose art from military aeroplanes. It is really well laid-out and designed and there is a lot to learn. Definitely a must to on your visit.
If you’re an active or retired member of Canada’s military you get access to the museum for free as well as free parking and a voucher for the food court.
Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
Just outside of Ottawa in Carp you will find another very cool museum. Built as a nuclear bunker during the Cold War it’s a blast from the past. Stuck between the US and Russia, Canada was fearful of the possibility of a nuclear attack. This four-floor bunker was to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war.
Take a tour and learn about this important part of Canadian history. Going into the bunker is like taking a step back in time. Explore the technologies and furniture they used back in the 50s and 60s.
National Gallery of Canada
When I went to the national gallery, the Canadian Galleries and selected Contemporary galleries were closed. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to see the section on Canadian art. Keep this in mind if you plan on visiting before these sections re-opened. Because of this, I would recommend going during the free entrance evenings.
The building is very nice and modern and the area has a nice atmosphere. Outside of the gallery, you will find Maman, a massive bronze spider. At a cost of $3.2 million, it’s the gallery’s most expensive purchase ever. If it looks familiar, it’s because more than one such sculpture exists. You can find the other spiders around the world in cities like Paris, Tokyo, and St Petersburg.
Royal Canadian Mint
The history here is amazing and you are sure to learn some new and interesting facts. Besides creating Canadian coins, the mint makes money for over 60 foreign countries! The mint also made the Olympic medals for Vancouver 2010. Each medal has a unique design so no two are the same. The Canadian Mont created the first 1 million dollar coin in 2007! In October 2007, Guinness World Records certified the Million Dollar Coin as the world’s largest gold coin.
Free Times at Museums
National Gallery of Canada: Free admission on Thursday nights from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Canadian Museum of Nature: Free admission on Thursday nights from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Agriculture and Food Museum: Free admission every day from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Aviation and Space Museum: Free admission every day from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Canadian Museum of History: Free admission on Thursday nights from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Canada Science and Technology Museum: Free admission between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily.
Bank of Canada Museum: Free admission at all times.
Travel Ottawa Canada: Attractions
In addition the all the above-mentioned attractions, other things you have to visit while in Ottawa are:
Alexandra Bridge Walk
The last time I was in Ottawa I stayed in Gatineau which is across the river from Ottawa in Quebec. While I could have driven into Ottawa, I chose instead to walk because the walk across the Alexandra Bridge is spectacular. The bridge has a very wide walking path and gives you amazing views of parliament hill and the river.
Parliament Hill is the political and cultural heart of Ottawa. It’s the site of many events throughout the year. The Parliament Buildings are beautiful Gothic-style structures overlooking the Ottawa River. Free guided tours are available daily, including a chance to head up to the Peace Tower for an incredible view of the city. Tours also include a visit to the Library of Parliament.
In the library, you will find a white marble statue of the young Queen Victoria who, in 1857, chose Ottawa as Canada’s capital.
Around the grounds, you will find many sculptures of important Canadians and important Canadian events. The war of 1812 monument features seven bronze figures which represent the key combatants that came together to defeat the American invasion. On the grounds, you will also find The Famous Five “Women are Persons!” sculptures. They represent the victory of five women in the 1929 Persons Case. The case led to a court ruling that declared women as persons under the law and made them eligible for appointment to the Senate in Canada.
Next, take a walk along the Rideau Canal. Opened in 1832, it is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. The Canal is a National Historic Site of Canada, a Canadian Heritage River and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It consists of a series of beautiful lakes and rivers connected by canals.
It’s a beautiful place to go for a bike ride, walk, or run during the summer. You can take a boat tour along the river during the summer. During the winter, it canal into the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world and is 7.8 kilometres (4.8 miles).
Notre Dame Basilica
One of the most beautiful buildings in Ottawa and one of the city’s oldest and largest houses of for worship. Built in 1885, it has been a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990. Guided tours between 30 and 45 minutes are available if you book ahead. The basilica is easily accessible by public transportation. It is a short walk from Parliament Hill and the National Gallery of Canada.
The ByWard Market is a popular destination for shopping, dining, arts, and entertainment. For 200 years it has been a place for farmers and artists to sell their products year round. The market has over 260 stands, as well as over 600 businesses. The market features numerous cafés and some of the city’s best pubs and restaurants. In the evening it becomes a popular spot in Ottawa to grab a late night drink and catch some live music.
Eat Like a Canuck
While there is not a lot of Canadian food, we’re crazy and proud of the ones we do have.
Poutine – Canada’s National Dish
Melty, meaty, cheesy, salty. Poutine is simply and deliciously french fries and cheese curds topped with a light gravy. It was named number 8 in a list of the best gifts that Canada has given the world. It beat out the snowblower, walkie talkies and the goalie mask. Above it ranked insulin, superman, and basketball.
For the best places to get your poutine fix check out 14 Of The Most Delicious Poutine Dishes In Ottawa.
Beaver Tails – Made With Real Bits of Beaver
Grab a Beaver Tail at the ByWard market. No, it’s not made of beaver. We wouldn’t eat our national animal we’re not savages (ahem Australia – just joking I love you Australia). Beaver Tails are stretched fried dough pastries topped with a variety of tasty toppings.
Tim Hortons – Love it or Hate it it’s Everywhere
If it’s your first time in Canada you’re probably wondering what the heck a Tim Hortons is. Some people love it, some people hate it and you can’t walk 10 blocks in any direction without running into one. There are over 25 locations in Ottawa.
Tims Serves more coffee in Canada than Starbucks. To put it in perspective, 8 out of every 10 cups of coffee sold in Canada are from Timmies. The chain remains at the top of Canada’s fast food chain, outselling every other fast food restaurant. It accounts for a quarter of all fast-food revenues in the country.
Travel Ottawa Canada
I hope you’re excited to discover Ottawa and I hope that you’ll love it as much as I do!